Terroirs & Signatures de Bourgogne Wine Tasting

Terroirs & Signatures de Bourgogne

I attended a French wine tasting for work last week to shoot a few videos. While I am no wine aficionado, it was a lot of fun learning about the Burgundy region and the variety of wine that comes from there. My favorite was a rosé Crémant de Bourgogne that was light and bubbly, not too dry but not too sweet. Aside from the wine, the event had an incredible wine immersion room to learn more in-depth about the variety of wines and vintages. Finally, the food spread was absolutely incredible with at least two varieties of brie cheeses, a multitude of crackers and these amazing mini-taco-type appetizers.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Rosie Project 250I joined a book club through my sorority alumnae group. We decided, after a long, cold winter here in Chicago, to choose a light-hearted romantic book, so we settled on The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

The Rosie Project follows genetics professor Don Tillman as he searches for the one thing missing in his perfectly scheduled, balanced life. A wife. As he begins the Wife Project, Don creates a comprehensive and sometimes inappropriate questionnaire for women to fill out, like a way too personal online dating survey. Things don’t go very smoothly though. For a more widely known pop culture reference, Don is like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. He is incredibly intelligent, rational and unemotional. Those qualities translate to some awkward first dates for Don. Then, he meets Rosie, and she throws him completely off balance. As Don tables the Wife Project, he starts helping Rosie try to track down her biological father. Don and Rosie go on crazy adventures to test DNA of all possible fathers. Even though Don is working on the Rosie Project, the solution to the Wife Project falls into his lap when he least expects it.

This book is an internationally bestselling romantic comedy, so it’s not exactly a brilliant find my book club. But if you are looking for a good beach book, this is it. The Rosie Project is a fun, quick read. At first, Don is hard to relate to because he is so rational and logical about everything. But in time, Don transforms into an endearing, caring character that you can’t help but get attached to. Rosie is a perfect foil to Don and not what she appears to be at first.

Also, The Rosie Project is in development to be made into a movie. So look for that in theaters in the next year or two.

Next up: The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

The Kissing Sailor by Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi

KissingSailor250Next up in my Book Challenge, I wanted a bit of history lesson, and this was a nice investigation into an iconic photograph. The Kissing Sailor by Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi look into the story behind the infamous Kissing Sailor picture that was taken as news of the end of World War II spread throughout New York. The authors look to tell the story that led up to this photo and definitively prove the identity of the sailor and the nurse.

Sounds good, right? I thought this might be a nice piece of trivia to pull out of my sleeve, but unfortunately, the book fell flat for me.

Turns out, the magazine that originally published the photo LIFE attempted to find out the identity of the sailor in 1980, but with many ages veterans coming forward with different stories, there was just not enough evidence in the photo to corroborate any man’s story.

The nurse’s identity seemed easier, when the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt declared Edith Shain the nurse after meeting her. During their research, the authors find another woman with a more convincing claim to be the girl in the photo, but because Eisenstaedt gave his stamp of approval to Shain, she was widely accepted as the nurse.

Confused yet? Verria and Galdorisi do nothing to help you out. After laying out a great story, the authors go over the evidence of the top candidates, and this is where they lost me. For some of the men, Verria and Galdorisi dive so far into the evidence that it felt more boring than the part of jury duty where you wait around for hours watching daytime television hoping you will be called to serve or dismissed.

This book is great in theory. In fact, the story of the authors back as the most credible is very compelling. The photographer was nearly killed in World War I; the sailor barely  survived a deadly typhoon; and the woman in the photo, an Austrian Jew who lost her family to the Holocaust, almost did not make it to the United States. I understand the need to acknowledge the other candidates’ claims to be the man and woman in the photograph, but by spending so much of the book dwelling on all the red herrings, the essence of the book is lost and so is the reader.

Next up: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley

When I came up with my 25th Year Book Challenge, I wanted to fall back in love with reading, but I also wanted to learn new things. So I am mixing in some non-fiction books, and this one caught my eye when I was at the airport early browsing one of those news kiosks.

SmartestKids250The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley takes a look at the U.S. education system versus the top three international education systems: Finland, South Korea and Poland. To do this, Ripley connected with three American exchange students to give her the inside scoop on what makes those countries different than ours.

The most interesting discovery is how each country’s path to success is completely different and a lot depends on different cultural norms and history that shape their education systems. Some of the exchange students thrive while others struggle. The difference in testing, which all American students are well acquainted with, is also astonishing.

What I liked the most about this book was that Ripley balanced necessary statistics with the student anecdotes and her own personal observations. I was never bogged down or bored with numbers. Her writing style was pretty conversational, for the most part, and I sped through this book in a week flat.

Next: The Kissing Sailor by Lawrence Verria & George Galdorisi

Texas Gold Bars

When I was in Austin, my grandmother and I stopped at the Sweetness Bakery to pick up some desserts for Easter dinner. This little bakery on Far West Drive was super cute with Tiffany blue walls, white trim accents and, of course, a bevy of nicely decorated desserts, including a Captain America cake.

SweetnessBakery300

 

We got gluten-free brownies, chocolate cranberry bars and Texas Gold bars. I had never heard of Texas Gold bars, but they looked great (unfortunately, I didn’t snap a picture)! The bar was light but rich in sweetness. Immediately, I could taste cream cheese, but the rest of the contents I could not guess.

So I looked up a recipe once I got home. Turns out Texas Gold bars are also known as Chess Squares. Paula Deen even has a similar recipe called Ooey Gooey Butter Cake. I’m going to stick with my Texas roots and call the bars Texas Gold, and I will be making these sometime in the near future.

Ingredients

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 300 and grease baking dish. Mix cake mix, melted butter and one egg until a soft dough forms. Press into the bottom of the baking dish. Mix powdered sugar, cream cheese, remaining eggs and vanilla until smooth. Pour on top of the dough. Bake at 300 for 40-50 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool and then cut into bars.

A Foodie’s Bucket List: How I did in Austin for Easter

Accomplished:

  • Sour cream enchiladas and a margarita at El Arroyo’s
  • Barbecue – The Salt Grass BBQ ribs
  • Torchy’s tacos and queso
  • Shiner

Failed:

  • Breakfast tacos
  • Lone Star
  • Deep-fried Easter turkey

Total 4/7

Over half isn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t a banner weekend for this foodie. I missed out on breakfast tacos, Lone Star and the deep-fried Easter turkey. The last of these wasn’t my fault though. My uncle stopped deep-frying a turkey on Easter years ago and did not reinstate it for my Easter return.

On the bright side, the BBQ ribs from Salt Grass literally fell off the bone, and Shiner never disappoints. From Torchy’s, the Democrat taco (shredded beef barbacoa topped With fresh avocado, queso fresco, cilantro, onions & a wedge of lime) was adequate since the barbacoa didn’t have as much flavor as normal. The Torchy’s queso with a dollop of guacamole in the middle was on point! The queso part was a nice low sizzle on the heat scale, and the guac added a nice creamy texture and taste to it. As for the sour cream enchiladas at El Arroyo, the queso verde sauce was disappointing, and I wished I got two of the sour cream sauce.

BONUS: Thirsty Goat beer by Thirsty Planet Brewery in Austin

Thirsty Planet

My uncle bought some of this American-style amber ale at a fundraiser in Austin. It definitely had a deep flavor that was very malty and grainy. Not my usual pick, but it was nice to try an Austin original craft beer.

A Foodie’s Bucket List: Easter in Austin 2015

This eater will be spending Easter in Austin, and anytime I return to Texas I make a bucket list of the food and drink I need to have. While I love living in Chicago, there are some things the Windy City cannot compete with Texas, so I have to make the most of every trip back home. Here goes with the Easter in Austin 2015 Foodie Bucket List:

  • Sour cream enchiladas and a margarita at El Arroyo’s
  • Barbecue (already on the schedule)
  • Breakfast tacos
  • Torchy’s tacos and queso
  • Shiner (rare in Chicago)
  • Lone Star (nearly impossible to find in Chicago), preferably bottle so I can solve the riddle in the cap
  • Deep-fried Easter turkey

I will only be in Austin for 48 hours, but this list is totally doable. Let’s go, Lone Star State.